NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has formally recused himself from hearing the Saints’ bounty appeal, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith announced on Twitter. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue will step in.
“I have held two hearings to date and have modified the discipline in several respects based on my recent meetings with the players,” Goodell said in a statement. “I have appointed former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to serve as the hearing officer for the upcoming appeals. Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters. He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity.”
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Goodell has “the exclusive authority to hear appeals of discipline for conduct detrimental or appoint a designee to hear and decide an appeal.”
“To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter nor has he been any part of the process,” Goodell said. “Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings. I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.”
The four players suspended for their alleged roles in the Saints’ bounty program — Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith — appealed their reissued suspensions last week.
An Appeals Panel had remanded the original suspensions back to Goodell in September, and earlier this month he reissued them, mostly upholding the suspensions, though he reduced Hargrove’s suspension from eight games to seven and Fujita’s from three games to one.
The players had asked that Goodell recuse himself from the appeals process. Tagliabue will oversee the players’ appeals hearings on Oct. 30, so the players will be eligible to play the next two weeks.